Travel

Men Playing Cards – Bangladesh Stories

Cardsandsmoke DSC_7177-EditThe final journey. That was what it was for me. Back to Dhaka for a presentation of the work achieved by our community. The calm that reaching the inevitable consequently brings. Hot and heavy humidity. The turning from summer to monsoon season and a two-hour ride on a ferry.

“We just do this to relax. We work so hard.”
“Can I watch?”
“Yes. Why not?”

 

The boat was about four stories high. I hadn’t ventured below much when I had taken a similar ferry before. Not sure what to do with all the eyes that followed I suppose.

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I had found the toilet small with picturesque windows, asking the directions in broken Italian from a man who was half-Bengali half-Italian. He spoke English, I think. We were just showing off to an ever-present audience.
“Qua!”

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Moving slowly about the boat to the end of his finger, waiting for thirty minutes. Everything is slow. Watched.
I found my friends sat on third deck sat on one row of plastic chairs. The ceiling was low and the light had to fight through grey clouds and then dingy yellow windows. Things seemed to have quieted down in here. Lagoon of yellow light and it could only have been five. I sat down. My companions passed me a tanda Sprite and carried on talking. I looked around ready to deal with the onlookers but there were none. I saw sides of faces or no faces at all and backs of heads in rows. They circled the brightest light source and a table, staring. A puff of smoke went upwards and the man who blew it moved enough for me to see a hand of cards.

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I took out my camera.
I would tell you what they were saying at that constant low murmur but my Bangla was worse than my Italian. One guy was balancing his phone on his ear. I needed to get closer.

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I moved a couple of rows in front. Reluctantly though. I was worried that I would become the new focus. I got a few looks but nothing much. Five minutes past and I watched the smoke and cards and then I went even closer. I thought no one had noticed. They had.
A man turned a cheek to me.
“We just do this to relax. We work so hard.” I nodded over enthusiastically, worried they thought I was judging them. Too English.
“Can I watch?”
“Yes. Why not?” He turned back.

I photographed.

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It seems unusual to start at the end of a journey for my first post back from Bangladesh. I have been in England almost three months now as long as I was there. Jumping back into a frame of me I left that does not really fit, wondering why people travel and do this to themselves. Travel, change and try and squeeze themselves into old frames. Fragments come back to me whilst talking to a client, discussing a project. This story always comes back. More soon.

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